This post is in my series regarding the North East Art Rock Festival (NEARFest), more about which you can find here. You can find all of my posts regarding NEARFest here and I started the series here. You can also learn more about this particular Festival here and here. The information below are just some highlights I remember and photographs I took from the Festival.
The lineup for NEARFest 2009 was (including Friday night):
- Van der Graaf Generator
- Steve Hillage Band
- Trettioåriga Kriget
- Cabezas de Cera
- Oblivion Sun
- Quantum Fantasy
Here is the 2009 logo, as designed by Mark Wilkinson:
This was the eleventh NEARFest and my tenth consecutive Festival. This Festival was the eighth Festival, and sixth consecutive Festival, to take place at at the Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and it remained there until the last Festival.
The lineup for this Festival was top notch. First, it marked the return of PFA who originally payed at NEARFest 2005 (see here) and their performance was on par with their performance in 2005. Gong was the band I was looking forward to as they are a classic space rock band and they did not disappoint. Gong is legendary and, but for NEARFest, I probably would never have had the chance to see them live. They seem to be ageless (their lead singer was in his 70s) and their music sounded just as good as it does on the records. Fantastic performance. Steve Hillage, of course, is also associated with Gong. His music and performance was similar but, of course, needless to say, my excitement for him was not the same as that for Gong.
The other band I was truly looking forward to seeing is Van der Graaf Generator (VDGG). VDGG is fronted by Peter Hammill who played at the last NEARFest (see here). VDGG is a classic prog rock band who is simply legendary among prog rock fans and, like Gong, I may have never seen them live but for NEARFest. Their performance was expertly played and suitably dark. Unfortunately, their band was just a trio with Hammill, a drummer, and an organist. Considering their best material featured woodwinds and a guitar with a bigger lineup, the set played by VDGG lacked the dynamic range and the sonic diversity their music is supposed to have. So, I thought their set was a little disappointing because they really could not pull off their own music due to insufficient personnel, though, in saying that, I do not at all regret seeing them as, even with those limitations, they are still a classic band I wanted to see.
Cabezas de Cera is an experimental band, some call them RIO, who, despite my typical bristling on listening to RIO over a long period of time (because it is so dissonant and amelodic), actually appealed to me as they were very musical and exciting. I actually bought one of their albums. They’re very creative but also tasteful in an RIO tradition, and that is extremely rare. Quantum Fantasy was excellent but not particularly original. They played in the style of space rock which NEARFest has already seen with Hidria Spacefolk (see here) and, more importantly, the masters of the sub-genre, namely Ozric Tentacles (see here). Perhaps my favorite band of the weekend was DFA. DFA played NEARFest 2000 (see here), which was my first NEARFest (see here). DFA’s music is generally instrumental. It is very complex and influenced by jazz, but also very melodic, tasteful, disciplined, and mature without sounding too busy or like constant noodling. DFA is a fantastic band and and highly recommended.
Finally, I once again got to meet Marillion cover artist Mark Wilkinson who was, as always, very gentlemanly (he was also at NEARFest 2008, see here). Wilkinson designed the NEARFest 2009 logo. Roger Dean, who appeared at, and designed the logo for, NEARFests 2001 – 2008, did not appear at this Festival. So, NEARFest 2009 is the first Festival that did not feature a Dean logo since NEARFest 2000, which had a logo designed by Van Der Graaf Generator and Genesis artist Paul Whitehead.